One day, the lens and the camera come down. After 40 years of traveling in the regions of the world that Sebastião Salgado has covered, and from which he has brought back his fabulous black and white pictures, the poignant testimonies of a suffering humanity in full mutation cease. One day, faced with the poignant beauty of nature, Salgado stops.
These testimonials were the occasion of an incredible exhibition in Paris in 2013 of nearly 250 of his photographs, entitled "The World of Photography". Genesis, became a book combining the taste of the exploit and the messianic vision of ecology. (1). "In GENESIS, my camera allowed nature to speak to me. Listening was a privilege." said Sebastião Salgado.
Today a film (2) honors the great Brazilian photographer, since October 15, 2014. It is in collaboration with Juliano Saldago, the artist's son, that Wim Wenders makes the documentary, "Salt of the Earth", based on an edifying collection of photographs collected from the far reaches of humanity across the continents.
In 1970, at the age of 26, Sebastião Salgado found himself by chance for the first time with a camera in his hands. Looking through the viewfinder, he has a revelation: suddenly, life takes on a meaning. From then on - even though it took him years of hard work before he gained the experience he needed to make a living from his work as a photographer - the camera becomes the tool through which he interacts with the world. Salgado, who "always preferred the chiaroscuro palette of black and white images" took a few colour photographs in his early days, before giving them up for good. Black and white allows him to get as close as possible to people's souls and the essence of the stories he wants to tell.
His father wanted him to go to law school; it was going to be economics. And with this background, his view of the world will be one of sensitivity to how human beings are affected by the often overwhelming socio-economic conditions in which they live.
Gaining awareness of human history
Of the many works Salgado has produced during his admirable career, three long-term projects stand out in particular: The Hand of Man (1993) which illustrates the soon-to-be-revolutionary lifestyle of manual workers around the world; Exodus (2000), testimony on mass emigration caused by hunger, natural disasters, environmental degradation and demographic pressure, and the latest opus, Genesis, The result of an epic eight-year expedition to rediscover the mountains, deserts and oceans, animals and people that have so far escaped the imprint of modern society - the land and life of a still-preserved planet. « Nearly 46% of the planet still looks like it did at the time of Genesis."said Salgado. « We must safeguard what exists. »
The Project Genesisin connection with lInstituto Terra created by Salgado, sought to show the beauty of our planet, reverse the damage done to it and safeguard it for future generations.
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Iceberg between Paulet Island and the South Shetland Islands in the Weddell Sea. Antarctic Peninsula, 2005. Sebastiao Salgado - Amazonas images - 2013
In Wenders' film, which received the Special Prize of the Certain Regard and a special mention from the Ecumenical Jury at the last Cannes Film Festival, it is the incredible and very famous photographic shots of an open-pit gold mine in Brazil that appear in the opening. An anthill of thousands of men, hanging from vertiginously high ladders, like ants on blades of grass, with the same determination, the same swarming and the same fragility as insects: it seems as if they could lose their lives in a second, because of a fall or a stab. Apocalyptic vision of a humanity enslaved to " the accursed thirst for gold."Virgil said.
The tone is set: the film shows very beautiful and strong photos, documenting extreme living conditions. Throughout the film, the violent epic of the populations of all continents (wars, exoduses, famines) alternates with the celebration of the wonders of nature, and Salgado's personal history with a reflection on his work as a photographer.
We see all the work of the photographer from the 70s: series on slavery and South America, on death in Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Congo, Kuwait, famine in the Sahel, ... Tribute to the realities of the world.
Trees of Life
"He had seen men behave like animals. He couldn't go on. He retreated to his father's land and found that nothing grew there anymore. The birds were gone, there was not even grass for the cows... It was dead.
His wife offered to plant trees to revive the estate. They settled into this land, and it changed their lives. Otherwise, he would have fallen into a terrible hole. He might have died today. He had reached a point where he had lost all faith in mankind. » says Wim Wenders in an interview with the newspaper Le Temps on 11 October.
"It is rarely understood that it is never out of desperation that a man gives up what was his life. Headbutts and desperation lead to other lives and only mark a quivering attachment to the lessons of the earth," Camus said in Wedding. So Salgado, after long stays in Congo and Rwanda, which were ravaged by atrocities that we know about, decides to put down his planes, he can't stand this horror any more. He returns to Brazil and decides to devote himself to the rebirth of the family farm, which has become like a dried-up stone. Tree by tree, he replants: today it is a forest of several million trees dedicated as a national reserve.
A utopia that inspires the artist to go in search of the beauties of the Earth. A rebirth with his camera to explore the still natural regions, the still wild life for a conviction: healing is possible.
"How to consecrate the agreement of love and revolt? Earth! "Albert Camus - Wedding - 1950
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Photo: Léila and Sebastião Salgado, Instituto Terra Foundation. Ricardo Beliel
(1) Genesis - La Genèse - Edition Taschen: a work existing in three versions: a general public version, a collector's version with a lectern designed by the great Japanese architect Tadao Ando, and an art edition in five different luxury versions, including two photographic prints.
Two men, one mission: Salgado talks to Benedikt Taschen about the photographic project that changed his life.
(2) The Salt of the Earth documentary by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado with Sebastião Salgado, Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado... Duration: 1 hour 50 minutes.
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